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SA’s IPC swimmers ready to shine in Scotland
- Updated: July 12, 2015
By Mark Etheridge
South Africa’s team of 10 swimmers have arrived safely in Glasgow, Scotland for this week’s IPC Swimming World Championships.
The group of seven men and three woman are expected to put up a good showing and certainly bring back some medals a year out from the Rio Paralympics in Brazil.
The team will be managed by Dea Slattery who says: ‘The team very much picked themselves by achieving Minimum Qualification Standards (MQS). All but one swimmer achieved an MQS and the one who didn’t was entered in the 4x100m medley relay as as he had an MET (Minimum Entry Time) so was allowed to swim the relay, but only the relay.
Summing up the team’s medal hopes, Slattery said: ‘I’m hoping that Kevin Paul might win two medals, in the 100m breaststroke and 200 Inidividual Medley. He’s ranked first in the 100 breaststroke.
Hendri Herbst might get three medals, probably silver and bronze in the 50 and 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke. There’s a very strong swimmer from the United States who lost his sight in Afghanistan just before the 2012 Paralympics. He’s very strong!
‘Achamt Hassiem, I’m also hoping to medal in the 100m fly.’
Slattery says there are also two new young male swimmers who have made the team, Johann van Heerden (19) and James Bezuidenhout (18). ‘James is the one chosen for the relay and as he was splits off getting an MQS in 100 Back I am hoping as the lead in the relay we can ask for a time and he might do an MQS time for Rio.
‘Hendrik van der merwe is the last member of the males. He is swimming 100 breast and I hope he will make the finals.’
As for the girls and the country will be looking to two-time Paralympian Emily Gray
‘Emily is ranked fourth in the 400 Free so she might pull something off. Let’s hope so.Adri Visser should make the finals in the 50 Fly as she is the current Africa record holder in this and the 200 free.
Beth Nothling should make the finals in the 50 back and I’m hoping that she improves her time and might be sixth or seventh.’
The team could have been that much stronger but, as Slattery explains, the classification system (and the race against time) was against her
‘Alani Ferreira had MQS in all her events but she did not have an International classification and even though she went to Colorado to get classified this was outside the the cut off date of 25 May. IPC would not accept the times she did at SA nationals even though it was an IPC ratified event. No international classification, no times accepted.’
Karin Hugo, who was a swim coach at the London Paralympics, is one of the coaches accompanying the team to the World Champs and said that ‘It will be tough for anyone to win medals with everyone in the world at the meet. The USA and Britain are always strong and the Brazilians will be wanting to swim well ahead of their home Paralympic Games next year so there should be some great races.’
The team’s highest profile swimmer will be Kevin Paul, former Paralympic gold medallist. He told Road to Rio 2016: ‘I’ve been in Europe for the last six or so weeks training and racing with the core of the SA able-bodied squad under our coach Graham Hill. It was a tough build up with training hard and still getting up and racing and making sure we posted good times.
‘I’m looking at Glasgow as a big step towards the ultimate goal which is Rio next year. We’ve had a solid year of training and have been working on a lot of new things since I made the move to a new squad and coach at the beginning of last year under graham and Dellon Dannhauser. Training in an environment like that with a strong group of able-bodied swimmers has matured me as a swimmer and I’m looking forward to seeing the result in Glasgow.
‘Confidence is the biggest building block to success. I’ve trusted my coaches and the process up until now. A good performance in Glasgow will only confirm that we are on track. As a SA squad, we have a very motivated squad this year with a mix of guys and girls that have competed on the international stage before and a few that will be competing in their first world championships.
‘It will be a great opportunity for the younger generation to gain experience and make sure that SA’s proud Paralympic legacy can continue once the older generation moves on.
‘My main event will be the 100m breast in which I’ll be defending my title on Wednesday. I’ll also be swimming the 50m free and 200m IM to get some swims in before my main one.
Cape Town’s Achmat ‘Sharkboy’ Hassiem is in high spirits despite some stress caused by sickness and the resultant dip in training ahead of nationals.
‘The build-up for me to the Glasgow qualifiers (senior nationals), was really tough being really sick just before the trials and lack of training because of it. But nevertheless, I went to those trials and qualified for the mens 100m butterfly (the event I got bronze in at the London 2012 Paralympics.
‘Since seniors, I’ve been train really hard with HPC Sport Science, Newlands and my coach Brian Button to get me back to the fitness I had in London. It is a great honor to be part of this amazing team and to be representing my country again. This is all one big stepping stone to the Rio 2016 Senior national qualifiers held in Durban next year
‘I’m feeling strong and expect good times at these championships.’
And Gray is also feeling confident despite something of a juggle between chlorine and late night coffee. ‘Training has been going well and all seems to be on track. It’s been a bit hectic with exams and being in my final year of Sport Science. I race the 100 back on day 1, 100 free on day two, 400 free on day six and the 200IM on day seven.
‘Not too thrilled about the large gap of days between my events but what can you do,’ she smiled. “The 400 is my biggie of the championships, I’m ranked third in the world in that one.’
The full team to do duty for South Africa at the Tollcross venue that saw many a Commonwealth Games medal being won by Team South Africa a year ago is:
Men – Hendrik Herbst, Kevin Paul, Achmat Hassiem, Johann van Heerden, Challis Wright, Hendrik van der Merwe and James Bezuidenhout
Women – Emily Gray, Adri Visser and Beth Nothling